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Tags: blinken | detention | kremlin

Biden's 'Food Fight' Over Griner Case Won't Save Her

russian gulag incarceration brittney griner

U.S. Women's National Basketball Association (WNBA) basketball player Brittney Griner, who was detained at Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport and later charged with illegal possession of cannabis, arrives to a hearing at the Khimki Court, outside Moscow - Aug. 4, 2022. (Kirill Kudryavtsev/AFP via Getty Images)

Hugh Dugan By Monday, 14 November 2022 09:38 AM EST Current | Bio | Archive

Jolting, news hit us last week — Russia is frog marching basketball star Brittney Griner from courtside detention into full-gulag incarceration somewhere far from the public arena until 2030.

What happened?

The appeal of her drug importation conviction failed, predictably, as do nearly 100% of such appeals in that foreign jurisdiction.

The sentence begins.

It pains me, having served as the immediate predecessor to the current Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs, that fate is triumphing over effort.

Now, without defending the legal traditions and practices of a foreign domain where fairness wears different robes, and mindful of the emotional pain shared widely, please allow here a recounting of diplomatic steps and missteps that bear recounting for future efforts toward her welfare.

Our humanitarian concern for Ms. Griner and her loved ones now finds scant recourse in a foreign legal system where guilt is assumed, and innocence must be proven — the reverse of ours.

Worse, in Ms. Griner’s case the burden of proof for exoneration was imponderably overweight. Charges were evidenced on video and other exhibits.

Under counsel, Ms. Griner admitted guilt.

The legal strategy, it appeared, was to cultivate favorable prosecutorial discretion toward leniency and reduced sentencing.

This game plan had some — not great — legs, but it could not withstand frantic, bombastic White House interference.

While courtroom deliberations were underway, the air was charged with castigations that Russia was "wrongfully detaining" Ms. Griner as if she were a hostage held by a terrorist syndicate.

In its foul-crying, the Biden White House had witlessly appropriated Russia’s “guilty until proven innocent” principle, undoubtedly provoking a chuckle or two in the Kremlin. It chose a weapon other than discretion, and Moscow followed suit – showing no discretion toward leniency.

Whatever the president’s impression of events from afar, his was not the way to tap into the sympathy of the foreign court or to facilitate a face-saving outcome for the host country.

Then things went from worse to worst for Ms. Griner.

Doubling down on its charge of wrongful detention, the White House tried to short-circuit the court process underway. Off-mike it proposed a swap: Ms. Griner for a notorious "Merchant of Death"-style Russian arms trader serving hard time in the United States.

It might have worked; however, Russia was not so induced to give credence to the charge that Ms. Griner’s detention was wrongful.

In fact, if this were wrongful detention — if Russia had plotted Ms. Griner’s detention to leverage against American’s interests — then this swap would have been Russia’s big payday.

But for its own reasons, Moscow did not cash in.

It stood by the rule of law and its legal process thereby further putting the lie to Washington’s reflexive charge of wrongful detention. This embarrassment for Washington seemed more valuable to Moscow than re-deploying Dr. Death for its burgeoning nastiness abroad.

Then Secretary of State Antony Blinken spilled the beans that the Kremlin was indeed considering a swap.

This exposed and embittered his counterparts, depleting any remaining oxygen in the room.

As they say in the White House, it put a lid on the rest of the day. More tragically, it seems to have sealed Ms. Griner’s fate for the rest of this decade.

The obvious recourse now is for Washington, D.C. to acknowledge the foreign court’s findings, accept Ms. Griner’s status as a given, and from there develop openings for continuing efforts.

Instead, the administration’s food fight mentality continues even though the cafeteria is closed.

Last week the president cock-a-doodle’d the "wrongful detention" talking point yet again.

The next day he imagined that our mid-term elections were no longer an obstacle for Mr. Putin to re-engage, somehow.

Such continuing insult to Russia has turned personal and Russia’s regard for Ms. Griner has become implacably impersonal.

Our diplomacy is effective when paired with a modicum of humility to current circumstances. Such humility might prompt in others more humanity in the consideration of cases such as that of Ms. Griner.

This writer admits that the " what not to do’s" are easier than an action plan. And wants to remind of the many good steps and intentions toward Ms. Griner’s recovery.

So, why pick apart this case?

To learn; to take lessons forward in seeking justice and support for Ms. Griner’s compatriots under inhumane and onerous conditions anywhere in the world.

Hugh Dugan served as Acting Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs and Senior Director for International Organization Affairs in the National Security Council after having advised 11 U.S. ambassadors to the United Nations since 1989. Read Hugh Dugan's Reports — More Here.

© 2023 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

Our diplomacy is effective when paired with a modicum of humility to current circumstances. Such humility might prompt in others more humanity in the consideration of cases such as that of Ms. Griner.
blinken, detention, kremlin
Monday, 14 November 2022 09:38 AM
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